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How to Pack Shoes Properly: The Ultimate Guide

Did you know that most people will pack two to three pairs of shoes per trip?

Why’s that?

Packing shoes is hard. They can’t be folded, twisted, or bent to suit our luggage needs. They’re the unrelenting addition to our cases. However, they’re a necessity. So, it’s up to us to adapt.

Can you learn how to pack shoes properly?

The simple answer is yes, you can. The longer answer is that it’s not rocket science. You can quickly learn to maximize your suitcase space by perfecting your shoe packing skills. For your convenience, we’ve even broken down the packing strategy by shoe type.

But, let’s start with a more general overview:

General packing tips for all shoes


As time runs on, our shoes start to wear. So, line them up and take a closer look. Do you really need them all? Get rid of the ones you don’t need any more and focus on the ‘keep’ pile.

Be practical

All savvy travelers are calculated. They plan their outfits and choose what shoes will suit them all. That way, they can keep their shoe number to a minimum while sticking to their style.

Socks and other trinkets

Shoes tend to be cavernous. If you don’t fill them up, that’s a lot of wasted space from the get-go. Most people opt to stuff their shoes with socks before packing. However, your options are only limited by size. Anything small enough to fit into a shoe will do. Think along the lines of hairbrushes, shampoos, makeup, chargers, etc.

Consider weight and build

It’s best to pack your footwear from heaviest to lightest. Or, if high heels are involved, from sharpest to bluntest. That way, you’ll avoid damaging your shoes as you travel.

Wear the bulkiest pair

We all want to have a light, airy, and brisk walk through the airport. However, if you wear your heaviest, largest pair of shoes on traveling days, you won’t have to worry about packing them.

Keep it clean

Among every holiday goer's worse nightmare is unpacking their bag only to discover everything smells like used shoes. To avoid this situation, add a few Dryer sheets or damp teabags to your shoes to keep them fresh overnight or while traveling.

Shoe deodorizers can also serve the same refreshing purpose. Some diligent travelers even go as far as to use shoe disinfectant or ultraviolet shoe sanitizer. Most airports sell shoe cleaning kits for this exact purpose.

Wrap them up

Despite all efforts to keep things hygienic – shoes are always going to trap odors. Nowhere is this more true than on holidays or on-the-go. We spend our days trekking around cities or sweating in the sun. So, for when the teabags and deodorizer just won’t cut it, it’s best to have a shoe bag on hand. Wrap your used shoes up in this bag before adding them to your case.

Now that you have your shoes ready to go, it’s time to find out how to pack them into your luggage:

How To Carry Shoes While Traveling (by type)

How to pack heels/wedges

We’re going to tackle the most challenging footwear first. Packing heels and wedges can be both mentally and physically painful. They tend to be the least malleable and take up the most space. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to pack them in the center to top half of your case. However, since they tend to be fragile, many seasoned travelers recommend wrapping them in a bag and keeping them separate from other footwear.

If you opt to place them directly into the case, the “square method” is best. To achieve this coveted, space-saving shoe square, you simply have to put one shoe in the bag. Then, you take the other shoe, flip it around, and place it just above the other shoe. This way, the toe of one shoe is pointing at the back lip of the other and vice versa.

For extra protection, add a thin layer of clothing or fabric between each heel or wedge.

How to pack boots

When it comes to packing boots, keeping their shape should be your number one priority. Stuff them to the brim with socks, underwear, or anything else that will fit. In fact, for high boots, some smart travelers will roll up their jeans and slide them in. Plus, the square method of placing the shoes “head to toe” also works for boots.

For extra protection, wrap them up in a shoe bag. Place them at the bottom of your suitcase to stabilize its weight and prevent it from tipping over.

How to pack sneakers

Did you know you’ve been packing sneakers wrong your whole life? That’s right. Unlike most other shoe types, they shouldn’t be loaded on their side. In fact, they should be oriented with one facing up and the other facing down on top of it within the suitcase – “head to toe” style, of course. Place your sneakers on top of the suitcase and reinforce their shape using socks.

And as always, for extra protection, you can place clothing between each sneaker to prevent bending.

How to pack into carry-on-bag

It’s normal to wince at the thought of squeezing a pair of shoes into your carry-on luggage but fear not – it’s actually very easy. Follow the general guidelines from above of stuffing your shoes to maintain shape, cleaning, and placing them with heels and soles in the opposite direction and you should be fine. Keep in mind that it’s best to pack your heaviest items in the middle of backpacks. That way, the weight is spread evenly across your back and reduced muscle/joint strain. 

How to pack into check-in luggage

Fortunately, there tends to be a lot more room in check-in luggage. It’s best to follow the above guidelines and pack the robust, heavier items near the bottom while keeping more fragile shoes such as high-heels near the top. Keep delicate shoes away from bulkier shoes.

Final Words

There are many travel packing tips but none so useful as shoe packing tips. We hope this article has offered you some valuable insights into how to pack your shoes for travel, business, and even for moving cross country. Follow the shoe-packing tips and tricks above and never struggle to close your suitcase again.

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